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Car parts from coal waste more than a concept

Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 02:17

May 30 - Scientists in New York have discovered that fly ash, a by-product of coal, can be used as an ingredient in a new, lightweight material that could one day replace heavy metals to make car parts. Dr. Nikhil Gupta from New York University's Polytechnic Institute believes the material could also be used to reduce the weight of everyday structures like park benches and lamp posts. Tara Cleary reports.

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Dr. Nikhil Gupta is setting up a high speed compression test for a new metal compound. Dr. Gupta has combined fly ash particles - a toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants - with aluminum to make a light, yet strong material. Fly ash is a fine dust. The particles are ceramic-based and can withstand high temperatures. And the ones Dr. Gupta uses are hollow, which reduces the weight of the end product. He thinks that the resultant compound can be used to make certain car parts. SOUNDBITE: DR, NIKHIL GUPTA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING, POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE OF NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "We can mix fly ash in metal, just like a cake mix. And then we can use this mixture to cast a part that we need. So it can be a small engine cover or it can be a sump cover or an engine mount. Those kinds of parts have been manufactured using these lightweight materials." And to ensure the strength of the compound, the compression test places the equivalent impact on the material of a 60-mile per hour car crash. Dr. Gupta says that so far, tests have shown that replacing up to 30 percent of aluminum or magnesium with fly ash particles maintains the original metal's strength. And not only is it using up a polluting coal byproduct, but it's also much cheaper says Gupta. SOUNDBITE: DR, NIKHIL GUPTA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, MECHANICAL AND AEROSPACE ENGINEERING, POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE OF NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "Cost is extremely important for any industry and the break-up is very simple. Aluminum is somewhere close to $2 a pound right now and fly ash is a waste material so it's available for free. So, if you're replacing 40 percent of aluminum with something which is almost free or extremely cheap, Gupta says the U.S. military has shown interest in the new material to make more lightweight parts for its armored vehicles. As a by-product of coal combustion, fly ash contains several environmental toxins such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Each year, millions of tons of it end up in landfills and ash ponds. Dr. Gupta says that if just some of that pollutant can be put to good use, it will benefit several sectors of the economy and the environment. Tara Cleary, Reuters.

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Car parts from coal waste more than a concept

Sunday, May 29, 2011 - 02:17